HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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Having a hard time with "tough love"?

“Our son ran after having a fight with his father ‘cause he doesn’t want rules, no curfews'. He'll be 18 in March. All he keeps saying is, 'I will NOT come home unless you agree that I will NOT be punished, and I WILL get my car back, period'. This has been going on for 3 weeks. We can't give in, but are having a hard time with the tough love. We paid for the car, insurance, and have his cell on suspension, but he thinks it's canceled. Any advice?”

I would simply say to him something like this:

“Son …we can’t control you. If you really want to run away from home, we can’t stop you. We can’t watch you 24 hours a day – and we can’t lock you up in the house. But no one in the world loves you the way we do. That is why we have established these house rules. Because we love you, we can’t stand by and watch you do whatever you want – whenever you want – without any house rules. Running away from home will not make us change our minds about providing supervision and rules.”

Then it’s his choice to return home under your house rules or continue to attempt to manipulate you into changing your minds. A long as he is safe, I would just let him know that he is loved and that he can return home whenever he’s ready, and that he can take all the time he needs to make a decision. But he will have to follow the plan …period.

In the meantime, catch yourself feeling guilty – or feeling sorry for him – and remind yourself that you are fostering the development of self-reliance in your child. This is for his benefit – not yours.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have 2 teens, a son age 18 and a daughter age 16. My son has been abusive and violent in our home, disrespectful towards me, even in front of his friends, or I should say, especially in front of his friends. He has destroyed property in our home, punching holes in the walls and doors. He attempts to control and intimidate me, and is filled with inappropriate rage and contempt towards me. My daughter is learning and emulating his bad behavior, so now I have 2 to deal with. I am a single parent, divorced in 2003 and my ex husband passed away 3 years ago, so now I am entirely on my own with these kids. I have always treated my children with respect and love, so I have no idea how things got this bad. I have been told that I've been "too nice" to them. I suppose that I may have spoiled them a bit, but they aren't as indulged as most of their friends if that puts it into perspective (we live in a very upwardly mobile area, although we are not among the upwardly mobile). I had a good relationship with my kids when they were younger, but things have deteriorated rapidly.

I have been in therapy for the past 6 months or so, and it has been only marginally helpful. My therapist has classified my son as a narcissist and abuser, and encourages me to not only threaten to put him out of our home, but to follow through with these threats. Are difficult teenagers "narcissists"? Aren't they affected by their stage of development, and general lack of empathy? It brings me to tears to hear that my child is being labeled as a narcissist.

Meanwhile my daughter is feeling neglected because she thinks her brother has gotten all of my attention, since he's so emotionally demanding and difficult. So now she's emulating his behavior!

My therapist also labels me as co-dependent. I don't agree with any of this, since when is being a parent and not giving up on one's child a "co-dependent" behavior? It is true that my son is 18 and legally an adult, but it is clear to me that he is not emotionally or psychologically an adult, so it feels very wrong to me to abandon him rather than work to help him. My therapist says that it would be good for him to force him to earn his own way in the world, but it would still feel like abandonment to me, and I fear that he would hold this against me for the rest of his life.

I watched your video and was amazed at how accurately it described my own situation, especially the depression aspect. I have been terribly depressed about this. It's now the holiday season, and I can't seem to get in the spirit of the season, I don't want to celebrate because my children have beaten me down so much and I feel so depressed and defeated.

GDOBSSOR R said...

Anonymous: A few things stuck out at me. The first thing is that your children's father died. The second is that your son punches walls and destroys property. It sounds like he may need therapy due to unresolved issues surrounding his father's death. It also sounds like he may need some healthy redirection away from destroying your property. Try enrolling him in jujitsu or parkour or another sport - some way he can get out his anger in a positive way. The destroying property does signal a lack of respect for the fact that you go out to work to earn money to pay for the house and the bills. Also, destroying property like that is way beyond normal teenage aggression - it's criminal and needs addressing. I would personally tell him, "Son, I am here for you and would like to help you, but if you choose to destroy my property and have no respect for the house, you will be choosing for me to call the police and file intentional damage charges." Then the next time he deliberately breaks something, even just a plate, make the call. Don't negotiate.

Your son may have borderline personality disorder which is similar to narcissistic personality disorder with some slight differences - one being that people with borderline have unresolved issues with a parent in the past, in your son's case it could be his father's death. Medication doesn't control borderline - you would have to send him to dialectical behaviour therapy. He may still refuse to go, in which case you should give him the choice of going or leaving home, even if it's to stay with friends or family for awhile. It may feel like abandonment to you, but if there's one thing I've learned about having a mentally ill partner, it's that nobody deserves to put up with someone who does nothing to address a mental illness.

Anonymous said...

My daughter 3 weeks before her 18th birthday and 5 months before she graduated high school. Hated the rules, called me names and said she hated living with me and her step dad. I took her to her dad's and stated that I was done. She kept saying she was a adult. Ok then be a adult don't depend on me for nothing. I have been on my own since I was 15. I explained it isn't easy to be adult but ok then your own. She found her dad's place wasn't as great as she thought. She graduated went to Job Corp and got her CNA. She will be 21 next month. She moved here to Florida where I live now to better herself she follows our rules and has a different out look then she did a few yrs ago. Yes tough love is hard but sometimes it shows them what it's like. I worked for everything I have my kids will do the same. It's called responsibility.. and she's learning disabled.which alot of parents use as a excuse.. I don't my kids have been taught they are no different than other people and they can handle whatever they need to

Eleanor Caissie said...

Don't give in, stay your ground.

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